I’m probably going to date myself a little, but I still like big ring lights. The ring flash look hasn’t really been big in fashion photography since the 70s, but a good ring flash is still one of my favorite keys because of the versatility. Ring lights gained fame for lighting that eliminated shadows on the subject and the distinctive catch light in the eyes.
My weapon of choice for a ring flash is the Alien Bees ABR800, made by Paul C. Buff up in Nashville. There have been some criticisms that the light is a little off in some of the Alien Bees line. If that’s true, it’s not in the ABR800. It’s got plenty of power, travels well and is incredibly versatile.
Most often you’ll be using a ring flash with the lens poking through the center of the ring. The lighting surrounding the axis of view creates an edgy, high contrast look that almost completely eliminates shadows on the subject, but can create a shadow halo around a subject near the background.
I like being able to move in close and change the perspective without moving the lights around for every shot.
Even if a ring flash isn’t right for a particular shot, nothing stops you from putting inside one of the 30 or 56-inch moon units and using it as a key or fill, or just bounce it into an umbrella. I really like the moon units, but agree that those can be tricky to set up.
I’m not the only one who likes the ABR800.